Botswana federation protests to Mnangagwa over Zim labour leaders’ arrests


By Staff Reporter


Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) have protested to Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa about the government’s recent blocking of peaceful anti-tax demonstrations and arrest of the country’s trade union leaders.


In a letter to President Mnangagwa, also copied and delivered to the Zimbabwean embassies in Geneva and Gaborone, BFTU secretary general Thusang Butale, condemned the excessive application of violence against the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) leaders for wanting to peacefully protest over legitimate economic concerns.


“Botswana Federation of Trade Unions is against the recet blocking of the peaceful demonstration organised by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and subsequent arrest of leaders of ZCTU,” Butale stated. “ The peaceful demonstration of the ZCTU is against recently announced “The  peaceful  demonstration  of  the  ZCTU  is against the recently announced economic measures, which will increase the number of already burdened workers of Zimbabwe and their families”.


Butale noted that despite prior notification and peaceful character of this trade union activity, police violently cracked down on  the  ZCTU  on Thursday morning  to  prevent  the  protest  from proceeding.


“More  than  150  police  officers  with  trucks  and  water  cannons surrounded  ZCTU  offices  to  stop  the  legitimate  exercise  of  the  constitutionally guaranteed right of peaceful protest.


ZCTU president Peter Mutasa and secretary general Japhet  Moyo  have  been  beaten  up  and  arrested  and  39  people  have  been  arrested  in Mutare,  Mavsingo  and  Harare.


“In  addition,  26  people  including  ZCTU  staff  members have been kept under siege at ZCTU offices in Harare and the police have cordoned off the  ZCTU  offices  until  7pm.  While  the  26  people  were  released,  ZCTU  president  and general secretary remain in custody together with 27 ZCTU members.

We deplore and strongly condemn the excessive use of violence and harassment against trade  union  members  in  retaliation  for  legitimate  demands  made  as  part  of  a  peaceful protest.”


The government of Zimbabwe, BFTU states, was obliged to ensure that workers exercise their right to freedom of association in a climate that was free from violence, pressure or threats of any kind  against  their  leaders  and  members.


“In  targeting  the  ZCTU  for  violence  and oppression, the government has not only breached article 59 of its Constitution but also the provisions of ILO Convention No 87 on Freedom of Association that it is bound by.   We  urgently  call  on  your  government  to  immediately  and  unconditionally  release  all union leaders and members and to initiate an investigation into the excessive and undue violence that took place,” Butale told President Mnangagwa. “It is our expectation that those found to be responsible for the violence  will  be  effectively  prosecuted  and  that  the  victims  of  violence  and  harassment will be provided with adequate remedies.”


BFTU, which joins regional  and  international  Federations  in  strongly  condemning  the actions by the Zimbabwe government, has  also requested to be kept informed of the action taken in response to their solidarity letter.


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